United States Patent #157,124 was granted to Joseph Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois on November 24th, 1874 for improved barbed wire fencing.
Life in the American West was reshaped by a series of patents for a simple tool that helped ranchers tame the land: barbed wire. Nine patents for improvements to wire fencing were granted by the U.S. Patent Office to American inventors, beginning with Michael Kelly in November 1868 and ending with Joseph Glidden in November 1874. The new fencing not only simplified the work of the rancher and farmer, but it significantly affected political, social, and economic practices throughout the region. The swift emergence of this highly effective tool as the favored fencing method influenced life in the region as dramatically as the rifle, six-shooter, telegraph, windmill, and locomotive.
Barbed wire was extensively adopted because it proved ideal for western conditions. Vast and undefined prairies and plains yielded to range management, farming, and ultimately, widespread settlement. As the use of barbed wire increased, wide open spaces became less wide, less open, and less spacious, and the days of the free roaming cowboy were numbered.